Samantha Stephens in Bewitched: Excerpt from Women of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television

By Karen A. Romanko

The following is an excerpt from my latest book, Women of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television (McFarland, 2019), an encyclopedia of 400 female characters from 200 series since the 1950s, which celebrates the essential contributions of women to science fiction and fantasy television. This excerpt is about Samantha Stephens, portrayed by Elizabeth Montgomery in the long-running and highly popular series Bewitched (1964-1972), still available in reruns on FETV.

Stephens, Samantha (Bewitched)

Samantha Stephens is a witch! Her mortal husband, Darrin Stephens (Dick York and later Dick Sargent), learns this fact on their wedding night, but Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) promises to become a model suburban wife in true early-60s, pre-women’s liberation style—no witchcraft allowed. That promise doesn’t last long, however, when Sam uses her powers to get revenge against a haughty ex-girlfriend of Darrin’s in “I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha” (1964), the pilot episode for the series.

Like others of her kind, Samantha ages slowly over the centuries. Her strong-willed mother Endora (Agnes Morehead), who doesn’t approve of the marriage, taunts Darrin with an antique portrait of Samantha from 1690 Salem in “Eye of the Beholder”(1965). Samantha deals with the constant tug-of-war between Darrin and Endora, each trying to keep Samantha firmly rooted in their world, and neither willing to admit that Samantha is part of both worlds. In “Be It Ever So Mortgaged” (1964), Endora explains why domestic bliss isn’t right for a witch like Samantha. “Our home has no boundaries beyond which we cannot pass. We live in music, in a flash of color. We live on the wind, in the sparkle of a star.”

Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and Darrin II (Dick Sargent) take an unexpected trip in Bewitched

The link between the supernatural and mortal realms is more firmly established when Samantha and Darrin receive a little bundle of joy, a baby witch named Tabitha (Erin Murphy), in “And Then There Were Three” (1966). Despite the good news, the battle for Sam’s loyalty rages on, and the unnatural withholding of her witchcraft causes problems, as in “Okay, Who’s the Wise Witch?” (1970), when a supernatural vapor lock traps the family inside the Stephens home. Samantha must also try to control Tabitha’s witchcraft for Darrin’s sake, as in “TV or Not TV” (1971), when Tabitha zaps herself into the TV puppet show “Punch and Judy” to take a stand for “women’s lib” and nonviolence. (Go, Tabitha!) The mother-and-daughter witches make another progressive statement, this time against racism, in “Sisters at Heart” (1970), based on a story written by an inner-city, 10th grade English class and reportedly Montgomery’s favorite.

It was always hard to see what beautiful, gifted Samantha saw in that awkward, wet blanket Darrin, but as sitcom premises go, it was magic.

See also: Bewitched (1964-1972, 254 episodes, USA)

Women of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television
 On sale now!